Improving a Surprise Hit
In April 2005, LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game Force-pushed its way onto store shelves everywhere to prove itself one of gaming's most pleasant surprises of the year – and one of its biggest hits. Now at over 3.3 million copies sold worldwide (and still going strong), NPD Group's No. 13 bestseller of 2005 has delighted gamers young and old with its unique mix of tongue-in-cheek humor and interplanetary adventure. Hot off the game's amazing success, developer Traveller's Tales and its parent company TT Games have joined forces with LucasArts to release LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for multiple platforms this fall. And with several notable improvements to an already stellar formula, there's a lot more to love about this sequel.
"There are so many things that are better, it's hard to quantify," says David Perkinson, producer at LucasArts. Perkinson cites his favorite improvements as the extended role of vehicles (including playable mini-kits), customizable characters, a better camera, player-specific attacks (including new Force powers), a greater number of weapons, and an adaptive difficulty setting. All while retaining the original charm that so characterized the first LEGO Star Wars.
"We will be retaining all of the gameplay features from the first game and adding plenty more!" enthuses Tom Stone, director at TT Games. "There's a lot that worked well in the original game, such as the character animations, the ‘drop in/drop out' two-player feature, the general pace, collection of studs and characters, and so on. However, we have spent a lot of time improving the vehicle levels – you'll be very pleased when you see what you can do with the X-wing and TIE fighters on the Death Star!"
Perkinson agrees that "the reworked vehicles levels are a huge improvement. Giving the player the opportunity to wander freely throughout vehicle levels is a great change, as is including vehicles and creatures that any non-droid character can build and ride through certain on-foot levels. And character customization is another fantastic addition. Players will finally be able to create their own Star Wars character and bring it into the LEGO Star Wars world!" Perkinson and Stone promise to delve even further into the subjects of vehicles and character customization in the months to come.
Perkinson is also excited about LEGO Star Wars II's improved camera. "When playing in co-op, the camera will now pull farther back to allow the two players greater separation from one another," he says. "We received a lot of feedback from gamers saying that while they liked co-op play, they wished that they were allowed more freedom to fight and explore. With the new co-op camera, they can do that. We're still looking into other ways to further improve the camera, as well."
Another common sentiment of both consumers and critics was the desire for a sequel set in the Original Trilogy era. Now they have it, and Stone couldn't be happier. "There are lots of well known scenes and action that we can have fun with," he says. "There are also fewer Jedi, of course, so the other characters all need to step up in their abilities to help defeat the Empire. That said, we've added a new ‘building' feature for all non-Jedi characters. Of course, Jedi like Obi-Wan still have the Force at their disposal."
In fact, the Force and other abilities have been expanded upon in a character-specific manner for LEGO Star Wars II. "We've worked hard to bring out the distinctive individual personalities of all those great Original Trilogy characters – and that's given us lots of cool new moves," says Stone. "So, as you'd hope, the Emperor now has a Force lightning attack, Vader has his Force choke, Han's got some athletic blaster combat moves, and Chewie's got a signature melee attack – he pulls arms out of sockets!"
In order to greater challenge hardcore gamers, LEGO Star Wars II will include an optional adaptive difficulty feature that, based on players' actions, "knows" how good they are, which accordingly affects how hard things get. "When switched on, the game will begin at the base level of difficulty and ramp up as the player succeeds," Perkinson explains. "The opposing AI will become more aggressive, harder to destroy and more accurate with their fire as the user improves."
"We were surprised and, of course, delighted that the original game was played and enjoyed by so many people," says Stone. "And with all of the new improvements and features along with the Original Trilogy we're implementing into LEGO Star Wars II, we're confident that the new game has what it takes to entertain even more gamers than before."
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